Broad-Leaf Water Sprite (Ceratopteris cornuta)

Ceratopteris cornuta (Broad-Leaf Water Sprite) is an excellent addition to any hobbyist’s aquarium.

This beautiful aquatic fern is a popular choice for an aquascape due to its versatility and easy care requirement.

It is safe for any pets that could potentially consume it and is also fine with any other aquarium inhabitants.

While this plant doesn’t have any pronounced color, it contributes elegant texture throughout any aquascape.

Quick Stats:
Scientific Name Ceratopteris cornuta
Common Name Broad-Leaf Water Sprite, Fanwort
Family Name Pteridaceae
Habitat Freshwater
Temperature 70°F to 85°F
Height 5 to 10 inches
pH 6.5 to 7.5
Lighting Moderate

What Is Broad-Leaf Water Sprite Plant?

Ceratopteris cornuta is an aquatic fern, also known as broad-leaf water sprite, that is recognized by its broad, fan-like leaves.

This plant will often branch off, creating multiple layers in an aquascape.

It is a slow to medium-growing fern that is best used as a midground or background accent for an aquascape.

Ceratopteris Cornuta "Broad Leaf Water Sprite" Care Guide

Broad-Leaf Water Sprite Plant Facts

Ceratopteris cornuta is considered a low-light fern that needs minimal attention as long there is minor care with periodic trimming and fertilization.

This fern produces branching runners that off-shoot from its stems which can be either uprooted and replanted into a new area in your aquarium or snipped off the top of the water’s surface for further maintenance.


The leaves of Ceratopteris cornuta are oval-shaped, fanning out from pointed tips, making a radius of approximately two inches.

Although they are thin in texture, they are strong, which keeps them from tearing easily.

The leaves of this fern also come in a variety of shades of green, including a light green hue at the tips and a dark green hue at the base.


Ceratopteris cornuta can be found in shallow, still ponds, lakes, and marshes.

In its native habitat, this fern generally receives low to medium light amounts in waters with a temperature ranging from 70°F to 85°F.

PH Preference

The Water Sprite Plant is an exceptionally tolerant fern. This plant will do remarkably well in all pH ranges, except highly alkaline.

However, for optimal growth, it prefers a neutral or basic pH between 6.5 and 7.

Keep in mind that a pH level of 7 is considered neutral. Meanwhile, a pH below 7 is acidic and a pH above 7 is alkaline.

Vivarium Type

This type of fern will do great in a variety of vivarium types.

When deciding if rather or not to use Broad-Leaf Water Sprite in a particular type of enclosure, Be sure to go with setups that have fully aquatic areas.

Here are recommended vivariums Ceratopteris cornuta will do well in:

  • Paludariums – Half aquatic/ half terrain-based enclosure.
  • Ripariums – Mostly aquatic-based enclosures with some terrain features present.
  • Aquarium – Fully aquatic-based enclosure with little to no dry terrain.

Vivarium Placement

In a vivarium, this fern should be planted where the roots are submerged and the leaves are floating on the surface of the water to ensure healthy growth for the plant.

As previously stated, this fern works well as a midground or background accent, so plant it near the rear of the tank where the light levels are low to moderate.


Floating ferns are generally substrate less plants. The Broad-Leaf Water Sprite Plant is not an exception when it comes to this.

Ceratopteris cornuta does not need an aquatic substrate, as it only needs its roots submerged for the fern’s overall health.

If planted, simply make sure to only cover the roots and keep the crown exposed.


Low and medium amounts of light are best for this fern, although it can thrive in any form of lighting because of its tolerant nature.

To get the most benefit from the lighting, attach a light as close as possible to the surface of the water.

This will enable the plant to receive light directly from its leaves that are floating at the top.

When setting up lighting inside of an aquarium, LED lights will work extremely well.

Try to go for colors that resemble a bright day. Avoid any type of light that has high levels of UV rays.

Buy Water Sprite Plant

When buying Broad Leaf Water Sprite Plants, you should know exactly what you’re looking for.

The most crucial thing to know is what should not be acceptable. The plant should be bright green in color and support its own weight.

Brown or yellowing leaves are a clear indicator that something is not right. If the fern cannot “stand” on its own, return it.

Also, make sure that the plant has plenty of leaves without any holes or tears and that the roots are long.

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Broad-Leaf Water Sprite Care and Propagation

Regular trimming is the only form of maintenance required for this fern. Pruning spend leaves and off-shoots, are required for maximum growth.

This fern can be propagated by planting runners (off-shoots) in new areas of the tank.

These runners should be planted directly in the substrate if possible or held down with rocks if necessary.

How to grow

As previously mentioned, Ceratopteris cornuta can be propagated by taking and replanting the off-shoots that it produces.

To ensure that the off-shoots take root and begin to grow, place them in the nutrient-rich substrate and ensure that light, temperature, and ph are all at optimum levels.


Watering for this fern is relatively easy, as long as the water level does not exceed the height of the fern’s roots.

The water must be nutrient-rich and free from pollutants. Aim for a neutral ph and a temperature of the 70°F to 85°F.

Plants Similar To Broad-Leaf Water Sprite

Even though some hobbyists enjoy sticking to a specific theme when building an enclosure, that does not mean that only one type of plant must be used.

Adding diversity and versatility is crucial to creating a captivating vivarium.

Mix up the look of your vivarium with different flora that can easily co-exist in the same types of environment.

Not only will it be more pleasing to the eye, but it will also make the tank look more realistic.

Furthermore, if for some reason you are having a hard time getting your hands on this plant…

Here are some other options that may do well with or in the place of Ceratopteris cornuta:

Button Fern (Pellaea Rotundifolia)
Boston Fern (Nephrolepis Exaltata)
Floating Fern (Salvinia Natans)


Overall, Ceratopteris cornuta is an excellent option for any aquascape.

Its low demand for care, low light requirements, and branching runners make it an ideal addition to an aquarium plant.

Its broad leaves provide excellent texture throughout any aquascape, as well as providing protection for small fish and shrimp.

It is an easy-to-care-for, low-light option that any hobbyist should consider having in their aquarium.

Frequently Asked Questions

The leaves of Ceratopteris cornuta, which are ovalshaped and fan out from the tips, have a radius of approximately two inches. They have a thin texture, yet are strong which prevents them from tearing easily. The leaves come in varying shades of green, with a light green hue at their tips and a dark green hue at their base.

Yes, BroadLeaf Water Sprite is a type of fern native to tropical areas of the world. It is an aquatic plant, and is often used as an ornamental in aquariums.

Yes, fish including guppies, mollies and some cichlid species will eat BroadLeaf water sprite (Ceratopteris cornuta). However, it is important to note that some species of fish such as betta fish do not typically react well to eating this plant.

Yes, the BroadLeaf water sprite can grow as a floating plant. It is an aquatic fern native to the tropical and subtropical regions of the world, and when grown indoors can achieve a maximum height of up to 10 inches. The BroadLeaf water sprite is an excellent choice for a floating plant in either a pond or aquarium.

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